Who wants to go into tourism or hospitality? A new game is just the resource to interest pupils in one of Scotland's fastest growing industries, Su Clark reports
There is more to tourism and hospitality than waiting on tables and making up beds, but the hotels and restaurants have had a hard time getting young people to see past the negative images. Too many have laughed through episodes of Fawlty Towers to take it seriously.
"It is extremely important that the tourism industry attracts talented and innovative young people," says Patricia Ferguson, the minister for tourism. "It is an industry that has a lot of potential. It is already the fourth largest industry in Scotland and is forecast to grow by 50 per cent over the next decade. There will be lots of job opportunities."
A lack of interest from pupils could hold back potential growth, so the industry has been working to find ways to engage them.
Who Wants to be a Hotelier? is a new resource for schools, aimed at getting pupils to give hospitality more than a cursory glance. "It gives teachers a flexible interactive tool that they can use in class to give students an idea of all aspects of hospitality," says its creator, Michael Lennon. "It can be used in a 45-minute lesson or longer, or it can used to spark discussions about such topics as direct marketing."
Mr Lennon is an assistant manager, in charge of food and beverages, at the five star Sheraton Grand hotel in Edinburgh. He devised the game while studying a graduate management course. He had to consider ways of raising the industry's profile among young people and came up with the Monopoly-style board game that could be played in class.
He took the idea to Peter Murphy, the general manager at the Sheraton Grand, who contacted Scottish Enterprise. From there, it escalated. In 2003 Mr Lennon won the Scottish Enterprise tourism innovation development award and this month his game was launched by the tourism minister at the hotel.
Between inception and production, the idea was carefully researched and developed. The feedback from a series of focus groups, with teachers from schools in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands, was crucial to the game's development, says Mr Lennon.
"One teacher highlighted the problem with games where some pupils got bored between goes. So we created the All Play squares, when all the players can answer the question."
The end result is a large board game where teams are hotel companies and they must answer questions to win money for investment. The questions cover a range of subjects, including business, marketing, Scottish history and geography, and the basics about running a hotel. Pupils may be asked how high Ben Nevis is, or what language a person with a Brazilian passport speaks.
"A lot of the stuff we do is about food hygiene, so it's good to see about the other side of hospitality, like business and marketing," says Clare Reid, one of a dozen S3 pupils from Linlithgow Academy who were invited to the launch.
"We could also play it in social education when we are talking about careers."
John Low, the headteacher of Linlithgow Academy, agrees about its value.
"There is a temptation to say it is simplistic, but it raises a lot of questions that many people assume kids know but often don't," he says.
"In our area there isn't a lot of other industry and so hospitality is very important," says Sheila Finlay, the home economics teacher at Lochgilphead High, Argyll and Bute. "Yet a lot of our students don't consider it as an opportunity and only come back to it as an afterthought."
The hospitality industry is enthusiastic about the game already. David Cochrane, the director of Springboard Scotland, says some companies have been buying games to distribute to schools. The contract caterer Aramark has bought 100 sets, while the Perth and District Hotelier and Restaurant Association has bought 10 to use in its Adopt a School campaign. The Inverness Hotel Association has bought 22.
Local authorities have also been interested. Edinburgh has bought one for every secondary school, while Glasgow and Falkirk are in discussions. Even Careers Scotland is looking at buying some.
"We hope the game will be in every school in Scotland shortly," says Mr Lennon.
About 13,000 pupils are studying tourism at Intermediate and Higher level and it is hoped the game will spark more interest.
"I have been pleased to see that increasing numbers of schools and FE colleges are embracing hospitality," says Ms Ferguson.
"I think this game is a really imaginative way of capturing the attention of young people."
Who Wants to be a Hotelier? costs pound;47.50. Contact Michael Lennon, tel 0131 229 9131, email Michael.Lennon@Sheraton.com